Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, a possible Republican presidential candidate, is weighing in on the contentious issue of mandatory vaccinations – asserting people shouldn’t be allowed to refuse shots on religious or philosophical grounds.
“Although I strongly believe in individual rights and the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, I also recognize that public health and public safety are extremely important in our society, Carson said in a statement released to The Hill and BuzzFeed News.
“Certain communicable diseases have been largely eradicated by immunization policies in this country and we should not allow those diseases to return by foregoing safe immunization programs, for philosophical, religious, or other reasons when we have the means to eradicate them.”
But, he added, “Obviously there are exceptional situations to virtually everything and we must have a mechanism whereby those can be heard.”
Carson’s comments came the same day two other possible GOP presidential contenders took on the issue – and amid an outbreak of more than 100 cases of measles, affecting 14 states.
During a trip to London, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie said “parents need to have some measure of choice” in deciding whether to vaccinate their children.
But he the promptly clarified his position once the issue began grabbing national headlines in the United States.
“To be clear: The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” Christie’s office said in a statement. “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, however, declared the decision whether to vaccinate one’s child is a matter of personal liberty, saying most shots should be voluntary.
“The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said in an interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” “Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom and public health.”
Paul also said he’s heard of cases where children were left with “profound mental disorders” after being vaccinated.
Some opponents of child vaccination have claimed there are links between vaccines and autism, though the assertion has been discredited in the medical community, The Hill reports.